(WOMENSENEWS)--Anita K. Blair, founder of the conservative Independent Women's Forum and prominent opponent of gender-integrated military training, will lead the independent review panel to investigate Air Force Academy sexual assaults, reports The Denver Post.
Blair, former chair of Commission on Military Training and Gender-Related Issues, was against admitting women to the Virginia Military Institute in 1997 and, in a report filed in 1999, argues that the military should not be changed to make it more accessible to women, but that recruiting policies should be changed to assure more "combat and general-replacement" male personnel.
"How can you have someone look at women at the Air Force Academy who has opposed their admission to similar institutions?" said Nancy Duff Campbell, of the National Women's Law Center. Many feminist groups are concerned that her appointment will give the independent panel an anti-woman slant.
Her supporters claim that she is not against women in the military, but that she cares about women and is only against coed training and combat roles.
The seven-member panel was appointed by Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld and includes four former military officials but no experts in advocacy for rape victims. A Pentagon spokesperson claims there aren't enough slots on the panel to "accommodate every expertise," the newspaper reported.
Since 1993, there have been 56 cases of rape or sexual assault reported at the Air Force Academy, located in Colorado Springs, Colo. Recently, the academy changed its sexual assault response strategy to make reports of sexual assaults not confidential but "law-enforcement sensitive." Female cadets have reported indifference from academy leaders to their allegations of rape and have claimed that they have been punished after reporting instances of rape.
-- Samantha Xu.